I’m not sure what’s going on at your house, but at my house and the houses of most of my friends, overwhelm has officially set in.
Here in Massachusetts we were just told that the schools are closed until at least May 4th (prompting lots of “May the 4th Be With You!” jokes). But most people I talk to don’t think the kids are going back at all this year.
Day by day it’s becoming clearer – we are in for the long haul here.
Today my 6-year-old was talking about “field day” at school, and a race car he’s supposed to make with his Boy Scouts troop. I didn’t have the heart to tell him those things probably weren’t going to happen at all. I just said they would need to do them “later,” which is true, I guess.
We just don’t know when “later” might be.
The reality of trying to work at home with kids is setting in. I’ve been talking to my friends – all of whom are working in bedrooms and basements, their hair done for conference calls, pajamas still on the bottom.
These are the friends who haven’t lost jobs yet – lawyers and high school principals who were my college roommates. My high school friend who started a new job just this week and is trying to learn on the fly, from home, with her two young kids there with her all day.
It’s a strange time.
As I’m typing this I’m sitting in my TV room with all three kids playing around me. They aren’t trying to smother each other or draw on my pillows at this particular minute, which is why I’m able to get a paragraph out. That will undoubtedly change in the next 4-6 minutes, and I’m being charitable with that timeframe.
I think everyone is feeling the stress right now, but exactly how you’re feeling it and to what level depends on the particulars of your circumstances.
People newly unemployed are reeling.
Finding yourself suddenly unable to visit your aging parents is disorienting, and lonely. The grandkids don’t understand and the grandparents, sadly, do. Nobody wants to be added to the daily tally of deaths.
Imagining what patients with the worst cases are dealing with is horrific. The thought of people dying alone unbearable.
And I can’t imagine what the doctors and nurses are going through at this point. The rest of us are anxious about going to a drive-thru to get coffee, while they’re heading directly into a minefield each day. It makes me tear up to think about the heroics of everyday people right now.
I’m not in the heroic camp. Like a lot of you, I’m just trying to get by at home with my kids. I’m trying to help out where I can. I registered to donate blood next week and sent money to my local foster care agency, since those kids are being impacted greatly right now. I’ve been putting signs up in the windows for all the elementary school kids who are doing “window hunts” to pass the time.
Just little things.
Lots of people are doing small things to help each other out right now. That’s the nice thing about collective experiences, even though I’d rather discover these nice things some way other than through a pandemic.
I’m scared about what’s happening and just trying to make it through the day. For the first time in my life I’m worried about rationing our food. I don’t want to go out for supplies unless we really have to, and so I pour a little less in the kids’ milk cups than usual to stretch out our gallon. I make sure to eat every leftover we can find before moving on to something else. I’m conscientious about things I’ve never been conscientious about before.
Today I wiped down my mail. My mail! I’m not a germaphobe. I wasn’t a germaphobe before, at least. Now I’m at a vigilance level that is exhausting and I know I’m not alone here.
I’m in the “my kids are really little” demographic, so mostly I’m struggling to keep my sanity in the ways particular to being trapped in a house with people who have dubious control over their bowels. Up until now I’ve relied heavily on being able to get the kids up and out – and to team up with other parents in the same boat. Breaking up the day into discernible pockets of time goes a long way toward maintaining a semblance of sanity, it turns out.
But when one day blends into the next day and the next, the stresses of family responsibility can build up. It’s the type of environment people need a break from, like prison or hot yoga class. You just don’t want to be there all the time. Smaller doses may be fine. (Not in prison, you never really want to be there). But in hot yoga.
Time with kids is the same. You want time, then maybe some more time, and then at some point everyone is smashing crackers into the rug and you just want to go for a drive and blast your radio on something that’s not Laurie Berkner.
Working from home without childcare is exceedingly challenging.
My children seem constitutionally incapable of being in a room together for more than 10 seconds without attacking each other every time I get on a phone call. It’s uncanny. When I’m not on the phone I can get more time out of them, but the instant they know I’m unavailable they inexplicably need me to be AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY.
It’s a special talent of children. Like how dogs can smell fear, kids can smell a phone call that you really want to make in peace and quiet.
Also adding to the stress level is the fact that I’ve had a stomach ache on and off for two weeks now. It may well be due to stress, even as it’s adding to it. I can’t tell.
And also it’s not really clear to me if doctors are available for things like that anymore? No clue. I don’t want to call and bother anyone and also I don’t want to go into a doctor’s office right now unless a limb is falling off and I really need the help.
I definitely need to take more breaks from the news. These daily press conferences are doing me in, especially when Fauci goes into hiding (I assume he’s periodically sent to his room for being too vocal). I do not get the impression that Fauci thinks that the “churches should be packed on Easter!” Regardless of how beautiful that may be.
Anyway Fauci is the only one I want to hear from at this point. Aside from my friends, who I do enjoy hearing from since we are all captives in our homes at the same time. This is a unique human experience we’re living to be sure. It’s weird to know that you’re a part of a “big event” that will be in the history books for our grandkids.
The last time I felt this kind of energy – the fear and the collective holding of one’s breath alongside everyone you know – was on 9/11. And once again NYC, where I used to live, is a central actor in a tragedy of global relavance.
It’s hard to tell what exactly is happening here, closer to home. It seems like we’re all waiting for a tidal wave to hit, but without being a hospital employee it still feels removed, which I think is making it harder for everyone to wrap their heads around. We can’t see it and it hasn’t impacted most of us personally, yet. But we are prepared for a body blow at any time.
Suffice it to say the collective anxiety levels are through the roof right now. Every friend I’ve spoken with today has cried in the last 24 hours.
Parents are getting short-tempered with the kids. And there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on what people want from their local schools right now – for every Facebook post I read about someone wanting assignments from school, someone else feels that it’s way too much to try to manage academics from home, and everything should be optional.
Where you fall on that scale I think has a lot to do with the ages of your kids, and the expectations on you to be working from home.
Trying to work full-time while also parenting while also overseeing schoolwork is a bridge too far for a lot of people. And by “a lot of people” I mean pretty much all people. Mental health for both kids and parents really needs to come before academics right now. But when and how do we get the kids back on track in their education?
And what about all the kids who don’t even have access to computers right now? How will this social experiment widen the gap between the most and least privileged kids?
This will take a long time to untangle.
The decision-makers in education, economics, and health care are jumping off cliffs without parachutes right now and hoping to land.
I think we’re all just hoping to land.
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